MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Two people have been found dead, seven are missing and at least 100 homes have been destroyed as bush fires rage across eastern Australia, authorities said on Saturday.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) confirmed two people had been killed by a fire near Glen Innes, more than 550 km (340 miles) north of Sydney. One body was discovered in a vehicle and a woman died after being found suffering from burns on Friday. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told journalists on Saturday that a further seven people were unaccounted for across the state. “I’m sorry to say that number can increase during the day,” Berejiklian said.
This is one of Australia’s worst fire seasons, and parts of the country are crippled by severe drought.
NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said little reprieve in fire conditions could be expected over the coming week or throughout the summer months of December, January and February.
“The forecast for the balance of the season continues to be driven by above-normal temperatures (and) below-average rainfall to dominate over the coming months,” Fitzsimmons said.
On Friday, state fire authorities issued a record number of emergency warnings, with 17 fires declared to be at an emergency level with high winds and dry-conditions fanning the flames.
More than 70 fires were burning across the state on Saturday morning, with an emergency warning on two of them.
Farther north, in Queensland, thousands of residents near the resort town of Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast, spent the night in evacuation centers.
Queensland Premier Anastasia Paluszek said authorities were still accessing if it was safe for nearly 2,000 people to return home. “These fires can change very quickly; it is very dry at the moment and the winds will pick up this afternoon,” Paluszek told reporters.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison Tweeted said on Twitter the fires were “simply terrifying” and the government would support people.